Murkowski Critical of Regulators for Delaying Development

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, today released the following statement in response to Shell Oil’s decision to cancel its 2011 summer drilling plans in Alaska’s Beaufort Sea because of the Environmental Protection Agency’s refusal to issue a key air permit.

“The EPA’s refusal, or simple inability, to issue key permits in a timely fashion is indefensible,” Murkowski said. “Shell has now invested roughly $4 billion and five years attempting to get the permits it needs, without success.”

Alaska’s OCS contains potentially the largest undiscovered oil and natural gas reserves in the United States and will play a pivotal role in the future energy security of the country. Federal estimates put Alaska’s offshore energy potential at 27 billion barrels of oil and 132 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.

“New supplies of oil are essential to keeping the trans-Alaska pipeline in operation,” Murkowski said. “While my home state stands ready to do its part to keep energy affordable and to right the economy, the federal government continues to stand in our way.”

The trans-Alaska pipeline carries roughly 13 percent of the United State’s domestic production, down from a high of 20 percent.

President Obama has said he supports drilling in Alaska’s OCS, but after the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico the president cancelled Shell’s 2010 exploration plans. Since then the administration has offered no clear guidance to Shell.

“The actions taken by this administration will result in all of us paying more for gasoline – not to mention the loss of jobs and revenue that responsible development bring,” Murkowski said. “We talk a lot about the economy, but rarely do our actions match our rhetoric. That’s unfortunate.”

Murkowski, the ranking member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, called on the administration to immediately review the EPA’s handling of Shell’s permit applications. The EPA previously approved an air permit to allow Shell to proceed with exploration this summer, but the permit was revoked on appeal.

“The federal government’s inability to process a straightforward air permit calls into question its willingness to support a rational energy policy,” Murkowski said. “This and similar problems are damaging our economy and increasing our reliance on imported oil.”